Terrorists in Miami, Oh My!
By Robert Parry
-- -- The Bush administration
finally took action against alleged terrorists living in plain
sight in Miami, but they weren’t the right-wing Cuban terrorists
implicated in actual acts of terror, such as blowing a civilian
Cuban airliner out of the sky. They were seven young black men
whose crime was more “aspirational than operational,” the FBI
As media fanfare over the arrests made the seven young men, many
sporting dreadlocks, the new face of the terrorist enemy in
America, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales conceded that the men
had no weapons or explosives and represented “no immediate
But Gonzales warned that these kinds of homegrown terrorists
“may prove to be as dangerous as groups like al-Qaeda.” [NYT,
June 24, 2006]
For longtime observers of political terrorism in South Florida,
the aggressive reaction to what may have been the Miami group’s
loose talk about violence, possibly spurred by an FBI informant
posing as an al-Qaeda operative, stands in marked contrast to
the U.S. government’s see-no-evil approach to notorious Cuban
terrorists who have lived openly in Miami for decades.
For instance, the Bush administration took no action in early
April 2006, when a Spanish-language Miami television station
interviewed Cuban terrorist Orlando Bosch, who offered a
detailed justification for the 1976 mid-air bombing of a Cubana
Airlines flight that killed 73 people, including the young
members of the Cuban national fencing team.
Bosch refused to admit guilt, but his chilling defense of the
bombing – and the strong evidence that has swirled around his
role – left little doubt of his complicity, even as he lives in
Miami as a free man, protected both in the past and present by
the Bush family.
The Bush administration also has acted at a glacial pace in
dealing with another Cuban exile implicated in the bombing, Luis
Posada Carriles, whose illegal presence in Miami was an open
secret for weeks in early 2005 before U.S. authorities took him
into custody, only after he had held a press conference.
But even then,
the administration has balked at sending Posada back to
Venezuela where the government of Hugo Chavez – unlike some of
its predecessors – was eager to prosecute Posada for the Cubana
George W. Bush’s dilemma in 2005, the New York Times wrote,
“A grant of asylum could invite charges that the Bush
administration is compromising its principle that no nation
should harbor suspected terrorists. But to turn Mr. Posada away
could provoke political wrath in the conservative Cuban-American
communities of South Florida, deep sources of support and
campaign money for President Bush and his brother, Jeb.” [NYT,
May 9, 2005]
Bush Family Ties
But there’s really nothing new about these two terrorists – and
other violent right-wing extremists – getting protection from
the Bush family.
For three decades, both Bosch and Posada have been under the
Bush family’s protective wing, starting with former President
George H.W. Bush (who was CIA director when the airline bombing
occurred in 1976) and extending to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and
President George W. Bush.
The evidence points to one obvious conclusion: the Bushes
regard terrorism – defined as killing civilians to make a
political point – as justified in cases when their interests
match those of the terrorists. In other words, their moral
outrage is selective, depending on the identity of the victims.
That hypocrisy was dramatized by the TV interview with Bosch on
Miami’s Channel 41, which was cited in articles on the Internet
by Venezuela’s lawyer José
Pertierra, but was otherwise widely ignored by the U.S. news
media. [For Pertierra’s story, see
Counterpunch, April 11, 2006]
“Did you down that plane in 1976?” asked reporter Juan Manuel
“If I tell you that I was involved, I will be inculpating
myself,” Bosch answered, “and if I tell you that I did not
participate in that action, you would say that I am lying. I am
therefore not going to answer one thing or the other.”
But when Cao asked
Bosch to comment on the civilians who died when the plane
crashed off the coast of Barbados in 1976, Bosch responded, “In
a war such as us Cubans who love liberty wage against the tyrant
[Fidel Castro], you have to down planes, you have to sink ships,
you have to be prepared to attack anything that is within your
“But don’t you feel a little bit for those who were killed
there, for their families?” Cao asked.
“Who was on board that plane?” Bosch responded. “Four members
of the Communist Party, five North Koreans, five Guyanese.”
[Officials tallies actually put the Guyanese dead at 11.]
Bosch added, “Four members of the Communist Party, chico! Who
was there? Our enemies…”
“And the fencers?” Cao asked about Cuba’s amateur fencing
team that had just won gold, silver and bronze medals at a youth
fencing competition in Caracas. “The young people on board?”
Bosch replied, “I was in Caracas. I saw the young girls on
television. There were six of them. After the end of the
competition, the leader of the six dedicated their triumph to
the tyrant. … She gave a speech filled with praise for the
“We had already agreed in Santo Domingo, that everyone who
comes from Cuba to glorify the tyrant had to run the same risks
as those men and women that fight alongside the tyranny.” [The
comment about Santo Domingo was an apparent reference to a
strategy meeting by a right-wing terrorist organization, CORU,
which took place in the Dominican Republic in 1976.]
“If you ran into the family members who were killed in that
plane, wouldn’t you think it difficult?” Cao asked.
“No, because in the end those who were there had to know that
they were cooperating with the tyranny in Cuba,” Bosch answered.
In an article about Bosch’s remarks, lawyer Pertierra said
the answers “give us a glimpse into the mind of the kind of
terrorist that the United States government harbors and protects
The Posada Case
Bosch was arrested for illegally entering the United States
during the first Bush administration, but he was paroled in 1990
by President George H.W. Bush at the behest of the President’s
eldest son Jeb, then an aspiring Florida politician.
Not only did the first Bush administration free Bosch from
jail a decade and a half ago, the second Bush administration has
now pushed Venezuela’s extradition request for his alleged
co-conspirator, Posada, onto the back burner.
The downed Cubana Airlines flight originated in Caracas where
Venezuelan authorities allege the terrorist plot was hatched.
However, U.S. officials have resisted returning Posada to
Venezuela because Hugo Chavez is seen as friendly to Castro’s
communist government in Cuba.
At a U.S. immigration hearing in 2005, Posada’s defense
attorney put on a Posada friend as a witness who alleged that
Venezuela’s government practices torture. Bush administration
lawyers didn’t challenge the claim, leading the immigration
judge to bar Posada’s deportation to Venezuela.
In September 2005, Venezuela’s Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez
called the 77-year-old Posada “the Osama Bin Laden of Latin
America” and accused the Bush administration of applying “a
cynical double standard” in its War on Terror.
Alvarez also denied that Venezuela practices torture. “There
isn’t a shred of evidence that Posada would be tortured in
Venezuela,” Alvarez said, adding that the claim is particularly
ironic given widespread press accounts that the Bush
administration has abused prisoners at the U.S. military base in
Guatanamo Bay, Cuba.
Theoretically, the Bush administration could still extradite
Posada to Venezuela to face the 73 murder counts, but it is
essentially ignoring Venezuela’s extradition request while
holding Posada on minor immigration charges of entering the
United States illegally.
Meanwhile, Posada has begun maneuvering to gain his freedom.
Citing his service in the U.S. military from 1963-65 in Vietnam,
Posada has applied for U.S. citizenship, and his lawyer Eduardo
Soto has threatened to call U.S. government witnesses, including
former White House aide Oliver North, to vouch for Posada’s past
service to Washington.
Posada became a
figure in the Iran-Contra scandal because of his work on a
clandestine program to aid Nicaraguan contra rebels fighting
Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government. The operation was run
secretly out of the White House by North with the help of the
office of then-Vice President George H.W. Bush.
Central America in 1985 after escaping from a Venezuelan prison
where he had been facing charges from the 1976 Cubana Airlines
bombing. Posada, using the name Ramon Medina, teamed up with
another Cuban exile, former CIA officer Felix Rodriguez, who
reported regularly to Bush’s office.
logistics and served as paymaster for pilots in the
contra-supply operation. When one of the contra-supply planes
was shot down inside Nicaragua in October 1986, Posada was
responsible for alerting U.S. officials to the crisis and then
shutting down the operation’s safe houses in El Salvador.
Even after the
exposure of Posada’s role in the contra-supply operation, the
U.S. government made no effort to bring the accused terrorist to
As for the Cubana Airlines bombing,
declassified U.S. documents show that after the plane was blown
out of the sky on Oct. 6, 1976, the CIA, then under the
direction of George H.W. Bush, quickly identified Posada and
Bosch as the masterminds of the Cubana Airlines bombing.
But in fall 1976, Bush’s boss, President
Gerald Ford, was in a tight election battle with Democrat Jimmy
Carter and the Ford administration wanted to keep intelligence
scandals out of the newspapers. So Bush and other officials kept
the lid on the investigations. [For details, see Robert Parry’s
Secrecy & Privilege.]
Still, inside the U.S. government, the
facts were known. According to a secret CIA cable dated Oct. 14,
1976, intelligence sources in Venezuela relayed information
about the Cubana Airlines bombing that tied in anti-communist
Cuban extremists Bosch, who had been visiting Venezuela, and
Posada, who then served as a senior officer in Venezuela’s
intelligence agency, DISIP.
The Oct. 14 cable said Bosch arrived in
Venezuela in late September 1976 under the protection of
Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez, a close Washington
ally who assigned his intelligence adviser Orlando Garcia “to
protect and assist Bosch during his stay in Venezuela.”
On his arrival, Bosch was met by Garcia and
Posada, according to the report. Later, a fundraising dinner was
held in Bosch’s honor during which Bosch requested cash from the
Venezuelan government in exchange for assurances that Cuban
exiles wouldn’t demonstrate during Andres Perez’s planned trip
to the United Nations.
“A few days following the fund-raising
dinner, Posada was overheard to say that, ‘we are going to hit a
Cuban airplane,’ and that ‘Orlando has the details,’” the CIA
“Following the 6 October Cubana Airline
crash off the coast of Barbados, Bosch, Garcia and Posada agreed
that it would be best for Bosch to leave Venezuela. Therefore,
on 9 October, Posada and Garcia escorted Bosch to the Colombian
border, where he crossed into Colombian territory.”
The CIA report was sent to CIA headquarters
in Langley, Virginia, as well as to the FBI and other U.S.
intelligence agencies, according to markings on the cable.
In South America, investigators began
rounding up suspects in the bombing.
Two Cuban exiles, Hernan Ricardo and Freddy
Lugo, who had left the Cubana plane in Barbados, confessed that
they had planted the bomb. They named Bosch and Posada as the
architects of the attack.
A search of Posada’s apartment in Venezuela
turned up Cubana Airlines timetables and other incriminating
Posada and Bosch
were arrested and charged in Venezuela for the Cubana Airlines
bombing, but the men denied the accusations. The case soon
became a political tug-of-war, since the suspects were in
possession of sensitive Venezuelan government secrets that could
embarrass President Andres Perez. The case lingered for almost a
Reagan-Bush administration took power in Washington in 1981, the
momentum for fully unraveling the mysteries of anti-communist
terrorist plots dissipated. The Cold War trumped any concern
about right-wing terrorism.
By the late
1980s, Orlando Bosch also was out of Venezuela’s jails and back
in Miami. But Bosch, who had been implicated in about 30 violent
attacks, was facing possible deportation by U.S. officials who
warned that Washington couldn’t credibly lecture other countries
about terrorism while protecting a terrorist like Bosch.
But Bosch got lucky. Jeb Bush, then an aspiring
Florida politician, led a lobbying drive to prevent the U.S.
Immigration and Naturalization Service from expelling Bosch. In
1990, the lobbying paid dividends when Jeb’s dad, President
George H.W. Bush, blocked proceedings against Bosch, letting the
unapologetic terrorist stay in the United States.
In 1992, also
during George H.W. Bush’s presidency, the FBI interviewed Posada
about the Iran-Contra scandal for 6 ˝ hours at the U.S. Embassy
Posada filled in
some blanks about the role of Bush’s vice presidential office in
the secret contra operation. According to
a 31-page summary of the
FBI interview, Posada said Bush’s national security adviser,
Donald Gregg, was in frequent contact with Felix Rodriguez.
recalls that Rodriguez was always calling Gregg,” the FBI
summary said. “Posada knows this because he’s the one who paid
Rodriguez’ phone bill.” After the interview, the FBI agents let
Posada walk out of the embassy to freedom. [For details, see
Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the
Press & Project Truth.]
returned to his anti-Castro plotting.
In 1994, Posada
set out to kill Castro during a trip to Cartagena, Colombia.
Posada and five cohorts reached Cartagena, but the plan flopped
when security cordons prevented the would-be assassins from
getting a clean shot at Castro, according to a Miami Herald
account. [Miami Herald, June 7, 1998]
The Herald also
described Posada’s role in a lethal 1997 bombing campaign
against popular hotels and restaurants inside Cuba that killed
an Italian tourist. The story cited documentary evidence that
Posada arranged payments to conspirators from accounts in the
back in jail in 2000 after Cuban intelligence uncovered a plot
to assassinate Castro by planting a bomb at a meeting the Cuban
leader planned with university students in Panama.
authorities arrested Posada and other alleged co-conspirators in
November 2000. In April 2004, they were sentenced to eight or
nine years in prison for endangering public safety.
after the sentencing, however, lame-duck Panamanian
President Mireya Moscoso – who lives in Key Biscayne, Florida,
and has close ties to the Cuban-American community and
to George W. Bush’s administration –
pardoned the convicts.
reports saying Moscoso had been in contact with U.S. officials
about the pardons, the State Department denied that it pressured
Moscoso to release the Cuban exiles. After the pardons and just
two months before Election 2004, three of Posada’s
co-conspirators – Guillermo Novo Sampol, Pedro Remon and Gaspar
Jimenez – arrived in Miami to a hero’s welcome, flashing victory
signs at their supporters.
terrorists celebrated, U.S. authorities watched the men – also
implicated in bombings in New York, New Jersey and Florida –
alight on U.S. soil. As Washington Post writer Marcela Sanchez
noted in a September 2004 article about the Panamanian pardons,
“there is something terribly wrong when the United States, after
Sept. 11 (2001), fails to condemn the pardoning of terrorists
and instead allows them to walk free on U.S. streets.” [Washington
Post, Sept. 3, 2004]
But a whole different set of standards is now being applied
to the seven black terrorism suspects in Miami. Even though they
had no clear-cut plans or even the tools to carry out terrorist
attacks, they have been rounded up amid great media hoopla.
The American people have been reassured that the terrorists
in Miami have been located and are being brought to justice.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the
1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book,
Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to
Iraq, can be ordered at
secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at
Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras,
Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'
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